- children training
two boys chasing each other on the street
with toy guns in their hands
the small one gives up and
falls to the floor,
acting out his own death.
the big one stands by, and
pulls the trigger.
there is no blood on his friend,
- my name
its root is
featured in one of god’s names
like badu in you got me
god has healed,
the divine healer,
guides the younger
comforts the elder
protects the traveler, the blind,
one of the four angels
who stand round the throne of god,
the angel of a pool called
where the sick go
to be healed
he always goes to those who know
they are too weak to make it on their own
he is filled with all good things through him
prayer is good for him
with fasting and alms
the root means
in the bible it appears four times as the name of a man
as that of a city
the masculine noun means both worker and subject
the feminine noun means labour, service,
religious discipline and
a collective performance of queens
the verb means to work or to serve
rich in sense
ubiquitous in use,
it has the power to take gist
from whatever comes next
if the story tells of “dressing” vines,
it reads “working” vines.
if a field is tilled,
it reads the field is “worked”.
the range of its root is so wide that
it results in self-contradiction
just like poetry
- junk food ghazal
kfc, burger king, mc donald’s, pizza hut, and now even subway.
a new junk food joint opened in my street today.
kids in the hood with supersize pants and flabby bellies.
in the old days they were thin, they are all unfit today.
young women and men utterly out of shape.
this country is for the obese, there’s no petite today.
triple dipping chips and onion rings dotted with black spots.
add tomato sauce, and serve them with your meat today.
burnt bacon, paper textured bread, hot dogs that taste like gum cigars.
mouths stuffed with so much shit today.
plastic lettuce, chicken flavoured rubber, weird peppers added for no reason.
there’s nothing else to eat today?
“it’s all grease, all grease!”, #RaphaelHatesJunkFood
is what i am going to tweet today.
- father and daughter
“the river was an immortal mother”
– Malika Ndlovu
once i took my daughter
up the mountain
to watch the wolves
(i always enjoy
dipping back into
as it becomes yarn, string
“how would you spend
the next 100 years,
if you knew they were your last?”
i asked her.
what am i great at?
what can i give to the world?”
“baking cupcakes, playing cards
and searching for gold”,
five years later,
she reminded me to
always ease the moment.
somewhere deep inside my soul,
a tiny bone shattered.
the change was subtle, but
awakened my interest in
butterflies and buds.
after all she gave to me,
i needed to honour her –
and it had to be done through a poem.
i went looking for her,
and found her sitting on a riverbank,
waiting for me.
the river was staring at her.
it followed her guiding eyes.
fish were surfacing,
like memories of childhood days,
to take pieces of bread
from her cupped hands.
- ruba’i of the night
revel not in the memories of greener pastures
forget not what the wine-drinkers told you before dawn
catch the cherry flowers the wind has snatched away
in this afterworld you’re on your own
Raphael d’Abdon was born in Udine (Friuli-Italy) and lives in Pretoria (South Africa). He is a writer, scholar, spoken word poet, editor and translator, and the author of three poetry collections, sunnyside nightwalk (2013), salt water (2016) and the bitter herb (2018). He also edited the volume Marikana. A Moment in Time, and translated into Italian (with Lorenzo Mari) Bless Me Father, the autobiography of South African poet Mario d’Offizi. His poems appear in journals, magazines and anthologies in South Africa, Ghana, Palestine, Singapore, India, Italy, USA, and UK, and he has read his poetry in South Africa, Nigeria, Somaliland, Italy, and the US.